When it Comes to
Kids and Dogs
Author, Darlene Wagner for Professional Pet Sitting Etc.
Teaching dog safety must be a priority for our children and for dogs. Yes, our loveable, silly, adorable canine companions are important members of our family. Just as our dogs need training and discipline when it comes to behavior, so do our children need to be taught how to act around dogs they know, and dogs they don’t know.
With 83.3 million canine family members in the United States alone, there are approximately 885,000 reported cases of dog bites each year, with 42 dog-bite related fatalities in 2014 alone. Sure, your Fido may be the friendliest, most well-behaved canine on the block but, unfortunately, not all dogs are provided the proper training and socialization necessary for a guaranteed incident-free encounter. And that is why it is important for you, as a pet parent and a parent to children, to teach your kids dog safety skills.
Canine Body Language
Reading a dog’s body language is relatively simple, and it is a learned skill that every child should know. Your own Fido may be your child’s best friend, but little Johnny needs to understand that not every dog is friendly. Use Fido as an example to teach your children what a happy, relaxed dog looks like. It’s easy for a child to interpret a dog baring his teeth as a smile, or a wagging tail as a sign of happiness, so consider sharing some videos on dog communication with your children. A great source for information and videos is the website Living with Kids and Dogs.
The Method of Approach
Children should be taught to always ask permission of a doggy’s pet parent before approaching any dog. If no pet parent is in site, little Johnny should be taught to move on without contact. And be certain to instill the idea that no dog should be approached when eating, sleeping, or playing with a toy, as many dogs guard their resources and will bite if they feel they need to protect their possessions or territory. A dog approach should be slow, with a closed hand presented to the dog, allowing him to sniff. If all goes well, the dog can then be petted under the chin or along the chest; be sure to teach your child to avoid a pat on top of the dog’s head, as this can be intimidating for some dogs.
Teach your children what to do should they be approached by an unfamiliar dog. A child should stand completely still, with his arms by his sides, eyes looking downward, while remaining silent. Many dogs will react to a child who runs away screaming, so teaching this method and helping little Johnny practice how to remain calm and quiet will help him stay safe.
Yes, our canine companions are treasured members of our family, which can make it difficult for a child to understand that not all dogs are the same. Teach your children early on how to approach other dogs in a safe, calm manner, and how to read a dog’s body language. Instill in them the respect they must show for all dogs, including your own, and your children will be safer for it.
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Dorinne Whynott, is a long time animal professional. She is a successful business owner establishing one of the largest pet sitting companies in New Hampshire since 1990. Click to Read her complete History.
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